Ep. 35: Keith Lewis - Separate Yourself = Quantifying Accounting Abilities

December 16, 2019 | 11 Minutes

Keith E. Lewis, CMA, a Project Manager at SEI Investments has over 13 years of experience in the field of finance and accounting. Keith is a "Big Picture" thinker with experience that spans multiple industries including education, non-profit, hospitality and financial services. His scope includes management accounting, strategic decision making, accounting systems implementation, internal controls, process improvement, budgeting, financial planning, financial reporting, forecasting, month end close process, reconciliations, and variance analysis. Combining his business acumen with his passion for public speaking, Keith has had the opportunity to speak at Drexel University, Widener University, Villanova University, Temple University and internationally at the Accounting and Finance show in Toronto. He currently serves as the President of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of IMA. In this episode of Count Me In, Keith explains how accountants can (and should) quantify their skills to truly differentiate themselves in today's evolving workplace. Download and listen now!

Contact Keith: https://www.linkedin.com/in/keithlewiscma/
Keith's website: https://www.keithericlewis.com

: (00:05)
Welcome back to Count Me In, IMA’s podcast about all things affecting the accounting and finance world. I am your host, Adam Larson, and this is episode 35 of our series. In a moment you will hear Keith Lewis, management accountant and an international speaker share his big picture thoughts on how individuals can utilize best practices and develop the skills needed to set them apart when looking to build their own brand in today's competitive accounting market. Keep listening now for more details in his full conversation with me. 
Mitch: (00:39)
What steps does one need to take in order to really quantify their skills on a resume? 
Keith: (00:45)
Well, Mitch that's a great question and one of the things that you need to focus on is three key things that you want to focus on is how many, how often, and how much, how many people have you interacted with? Did they span across different business units on a horizontal level? Did you go up to the higher ups, the C level executives on a vertical basis, and how many individuals were you able to touch in terms of your reach within your position? The second key thing that you want to focus on is how it walked in. Was this a daily task or the weekly, monthly Semi-annually, or annually and then finally how much, how much were you able to save the company or make the company by the process that you were taken in order to get results driven action? How I take it back to an experience that I had and a couple of the positions that I've worked in, I created standard operating procedures, which is also known as SOPs. These things were put in place for our new hires and assisted with the in the onboarding process. This save time during the time that they were being on onboarding and it helped the employees to be come more productive sooner than normal. 
Mitch: (02:08)
So what strategy goes into how you want to be perceived by the employers once you're able to quantify this on your resume? 
Keith: (02:17)
Another great question. The dots for your brand will be connected via the combination of your resume and your social media platforms. Somebody has checked your platform, your LinkedIn, your GlassDoor to see the connections that you have and how is it aligned to the resume that you're presenting. You need to stop viewing yourself as a company of one. You're here to provide a service for a company either via W2, 1099, or direct B2B if you're a business owner. Finally, you are a sales consultant and the best product that you have and everybody wants is you. You just need to know how to actually quantify your skills, know what your value proposition and presented to the individuals. 
Mitch: (03:04)
That's a great point. And now once you're able to quantify your skills and you kind of have this perception that you're looking to display, what is the best way for you to utilize something like LinkedIn when it comes to building your brand and further establishing who you are? 
Keith: (03:26)
I like to use LinkedIn as my canvas. I remember at one point in order to reach out to the decision makers within a company, you have to cold call the company, act as if you weren't who you were in order to get a contact. Just to be able to reach out to him. Put your best foot forward. Now you have tools like LinkedIn where you're able to wait the decision makers within the company that you may want to go to or get interesting information from companies that you've seen information about. I think that this is very important that you have a consistent message on your LinkedIn that is really cohesive to what you are representing on your resume. You want to create posts that helpful that to provide insights to individuals and give them actionable items that can better their situation no matter what position they're in currently.
Mitch: (04:23)
How can we further differentiate ourselves from all of the other applications though? What's another tip that I could do to separate myself from others during the interview process? 
Keith: (04:36)
Well, this is a great thing and I'm a true believer that one of the best ways to separate yourself, there's a thank you card. I've been able to position myself in a lot of great opportunities based off the fact that I did a thank you card. It seems to be very rare, but the one thing that people don't take into consideration is that when you're asking the questions at the end that every interviewer asked you if you have, you have two purposes. One is to further build that common ground, which with whoever you're interviewing during that time and two, you want to provide the basis for your thank you cards. So when I crossed my handwritten thank you cards, I specifically make an effort not to discuss the position at all. All I want to do is thank them for the opportunity that they'd provided and taking the time out to actually meet with me. I focus on common ground building items during the interview instead. An example of that is one of the thank you caused that I've crafted during one of the interviews at a company I interview for, I found out that they had young children through my questioning and I mentioned to them that there was a guy that was based out of Philadelphia named grandpa bubbles that hosts different free events in the parks in the surrounding area. Now totally it was something that she may be interested in and even provided the website for. She really appreciated that because it wasn't about, the interview wasn't about the position. It was really about just building that genuine connection and that's what you're able to do through a thank you card. 
Mitch: (06:13)
Just as a quick follow-up to that question, what is the benefit of a handwritten thank you card as opposed to, you know, the more traditional email today? 
Keith: (06:25)
Well, I think that a handwritten thank you card, it shows the efforts. It's very easy to go online and just write some type of email that you send out to somebody. It seems very generic and is not very personable. I feel that the handwritten, especially if you're doing a handwritten thank you card, it shows the time and the effort and the genuine interest of this person to actually want to reach out to you and thanks. Good. 
Mitch: (06:53)
I think that's a great piece of advice and you've been able to share some of your personal experiences. So I'm just kind of curious, what do you think has been the number one marketing tool that you've been able to use when approaching other companies? 
Keith: (07:08)
I think that's also another excellent question. I think that there's a number of things that I've used and been able to do that helped me and my upward mobility within the different companies that I worked for. I would say obtaining the CMA certification has probably been the number one marketing tool that I've had up til this point in my career. Expertise and understanding that I have been able to gain from the breath is knowledge that's contained within the learning outcomes. It's going to set you apart instantly. My first hand, ability to apply them into companies that I've worked for also added to that marketing scope op game. You'll notice that although the CMA certification is still growing, companies are more and more starting to look in that direction when they are looking for their possible candidates. Companies like J&J, Amazon, eBay and many others on that list, 
Mitch: (08:06)
Can you just share some of the accounting skills and knowledge that you have been able to learn and develop and apply because of this certification? 
Keith: (08:16)
Absolutely. And my current role at FEI, I currently work on the corporate accounting technical support team. In addition to that, I'm also involved in the analysis piece in paying our managers as well as our clients. And one of the skills that we also utilize or one of the skills that I also utilize is in the budgeting scope rolling over budgets on a monthly basis. It can be very tedious and an understanding that I'm been able to gain through that process. Awesome study from the CMA as well as the analysis and various analysis from the standpoint of even looking at WACC and the cost of capital has been able to help me tremendously in my current role. 
Mitch: (09:02)
Finally, what advice would you give to those that are currently working to build their brand? Maybe those who don't know where to start, you know, how have your experiences allowed you to provide some guidance or insight to those that are looking to advance their careers just like yourself? 
Keith: (09:21)
I think Mitchell is very simple. I would say that the very first place you need to start is with yourself. You need to really do it. Honest self reflection. Who are you? What is, what are your capabilities? What are your shortfalls, and what do you need in order to fill the gap? You also need to know what is your story? How do you tell your story? We all come from unique backgrounds, experiences, challenges, and successes. Don't be afraid to share those. You'll be surprised how interjecting the human element to the workforce can pay extreme dividends. 
Announcer: (09:59)
This has been Count Me In, IMA's podcast providing you with the latest perspectives of thought leaders from the accounting and finance profession. If you like what you heard and you'd like to be counted in for more relevant accounting and finance education, visit IMA's website at www.imanet.org.